Microsoft’s Charlie Owen is Disappointed in My Switch to the Mac

My first photo ever posted to my Flickrstream. My Media Center PC.

My friend Charlie Owen, who works on the Media Center team over at Microsoft, is out with a post saying he’s disappointed with my post yesterday where I suggest to Chris Pirillo that it’s time for him to ditch Windows and move on over to a Mac. I don’t think Chris is going to take my advice… but if he hears it enough over time at some point it might kick in (that’s how the conversion worked for me).

From Charlie: “I’ve remained silent about Thomas moving most of his computing to the Mac simply because I was so very disappointed to lose him as a resource to make Windows Media Center a better experience. I was pretty amazed to see him so quickly jump on the ‘Get a Mac’ bandwagon with Chris’ latest post given (1) a majority of his problems with Windows at the time he ‘switched’ seemed to stem from his chosen OEM and (2) as far as I know he doesn’t have a ton of experience with Windows Vista to objectively compare it to MacOS. In his defense, he might have a ton of experience with Windows Vista but hasn’t posted about it (yet).”

So I wanted to address a couple of Charlie’s points.

First off, nobody wanted Microsoft to be the best operating system in the world more than me. I still think Microsoft’s vision for the Media Center PC as an entertainment hub in the home (especially with the XBox 360 as an extender) is brilliant. I’ve invested thousands of hours into Microsoft Windows and really think it has potential.

What’s more, unrelated to their OS, Microsoft has done a lot of things right in the past few years with regards to the blogosphere. Some of this was started by Scoble when he was there, but a lot of it has just grown organically as the outgrowth of a company who believes in blogging. People like Charlie and Sean Alexander and now Michael Gartenberg (among many, many others), understand the forum of blogging and it’s an important way to communicate and share ideas in an open forum. By contrast I don’t know a single Apple blogger. I’m sure they are out there I just have never met one.

The fact that I’ve got blogging friends and believe in a vision though are simply not enough.

The immediate temptation is to begin rattling off yet another list of the many, many specific problems that I’ve had with my PCs over the years, peripherals not being recognized, sticking things into USB slots and getting no response, meta data not taking, I/O device errors, authentication not working, things freezing up, applications not quiting, not being able to delete a folder or file because it’s “in use” even when it’s not in use by me, etc. etc. etc.). I could probably list 300 specific problems that I’ve had in the past few years if I really wanted to. At one point I started a blog post where I was going to document all of the problems I was having on my PCs and then see if people could give me advice on how to fix them. Kind of an interesting community based tech support experiment. But there were just too many problems to keep up with and follow up on and it turned out to be a lot more work than I originally thought.

I really, really wanted Windows and the PC platform to be my primary computing experience. But it doesn’t always work like it should. And many who uses a PC know this. It’s common knowledge. People just learn to accept it as part of the price for using the computer, an indispensable tool at this point, and move on. From what I’ve experienced of the Mac so far though, what I’m saying is that these almost daily problems do not *have* to be a part of your computing experience.

Charlie in your post you state that, the “majority of his problems with Windows at the time he ‘switched’ seemed to stem from his chosen OEM.” This simply is not true. I’ve used many different PCs made by many different OEMs over the course of the past 16 years. Today in my home I have 5 PCs. I have a laptop that is made by Dell that was my primary computing device. I have a HP Media Center PC. I have a custom build AKMA PC that was used primarily as a digital media workhorse. I have another generic brand PC and another Dell desktop.

Additionally I’ve got two Windows PCs a work. Another generic AKMA box and a HP Box that goes with my Bloomberg machine.

Most of my computing was done on my Dell laptop and on my AKMA custom built box while much of my media was consumed on the HP.

As my primary PC my Dell laptop had been used less than a year. Interestingly enough I’ve had three laptops in the last three years. In 2004 I used a Sony laptop that I bought at Costco in October of 2004 it was crushed under a seat on a flight back from Italy (gotta love those Lufthansa mechanical seats but laptops beware). I then upgraded to a IBM ThinkPad T40. Certainly a high enough end Windows machine. In 2005 I spilled a giant glass of chardonnay into the ThinkPad and thought enough with spending $3,000 on a laptop and bought the Dell for less than $1,000.

So in the last three years I have experienced Windows computing on Sony, Dell, IBM, HP and generic built box platforms. And I have experienced (and still experience on the surviving machines today) problems on every single machine universally.

Your point about Vista is a fair one. My only real experiences with Vista so far have been with beta Vista software (and it’s not fair to judge beta software as I very well know being the CEO of a company with current beta software out). But when I read things like what Chris Pirillo wrote it just resonates with me. And even in the three comments on your post about this disappointment people are already complaining about Vista. Chris Pirillo is someone who is tech savvy and someone whose opinion I trust. When Chris says he’s “upgrading” to XP that says a lot. And my points about XP sucking are true for me. XP has sucked for me. And where it sucks most of all is in comparison to the Mac.

Maybe I’ve drunk the Mac Kool-aid at this point. But my years of hardcore daily computing experience tell me that there is something more to this. That there is something more to it than funny commercials and the soothing sound of Steve Job’s voice as he preaches to us about the iPhone. That fundamentally, I’ll say it again, “It just works.” And it just works over and over and over again. And that counts for far more than the clever ads or the sleek design, or the fact that all Macs are female (I haven’t picked a name for mine yet).

The thing is that there is just so much to do and so little time. In addition to my blog I’ve got four kids, a day job in the investment business, I’m CEO of an internet startup and on top of it all I’m trying to shoot 200-300 photos every day and build a library of 500,000 finished images before I die. The efficiencies that the Mac gives me are real and they are powerful. I hope Microsoft gets there.

I w
ill try Vista at some point myself and I hope when I do that I don’t come to the same conclusions that Chris Pirillo did.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    my dvd player almost got crushed by the tray table on an alaska airlines flight. so yea, i really like lufthansa, but gotta watch out for that!

  2. Bo Nash says:

    I have something else to add to your list of things that “just work” about Macs. When you buy your next MacBook you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

    Yesterday I bought a new MacBook Pro after using a G4 PowerBook as my daily workhorse for about three years. In the setup process I connected the two machines with a firewire cable and transfered everything over to the new machine in about three clicks. The whole process took about an hour, including copying about 60 GB of photos and installing all of the software from the old machine including the entire Adobe CS suite onto the new one. And it only took about 30 seconds of input from me at the start. SO SLICK.

    I’ve done countless transfers and reformats on Windows machines of the same magnitude, going back to Win 3.1 and NONE have been that simple. I think the easiest was on Win98SE which I had down to a fairly simple process, but you still had to set aside an evening.

    I’m sure I’ll replace my current Windows XP machine with something running Vista because I need a MS machine around for testing. Hopefully the process will be as simple, but I think I’d be crazy to expect as much.

    Oh yeah, and I’ve named my MacBook “Gidget.”

  3. greywulf says:

    I’m with you all the way on this Thomas. I came to the same conclusion about Microsoft a while ago, though while you took the Mac path, I went the Linux route. Same conclusion, different endings, that’s all.

    With a Mac things just work, and they’re great. With Linux I can get under the hood and make it work in whatever way I want. Both are equally good solutions to the problems Microsoft brings – viruses, adware, registry problems, security issues and all the rest.

    Each version of Windows is oh-so-slowly re-inventing Unix (badly), and trying to put a flashy interface on top to gloss over the problems. I’m not sure they’ll produce something approaching a quality product any time soon. Which is a shame, considering all the very, very clever people in their employ.

    But hey, what do I know?

  4. Jeff Atwood says:

    > Chris Pirillo is someone who is tech savvy and someone whose opinion I trust.

    That’s like calling the National Enquirer your favorite newspaper.

    Thomas, I’m embarrassed on your behalf.

    I must be a genius, because I’m not seeing these daily, soul-crushing, killed-little-children problems that you and Chris had, under XP or Vista.

    Why is it so hard for people to admit that they just *like what they like?* No doubt Apple has far more aesthetically pleasing hardware than the beige-box crap the PC world has to live with. And the semi-closed ecosystem of Apple leads to much tighter and cleaner integration, at the cost of a little choice and a little cash. Perfectly reasonable tradeoffs, all.

    We can trade apocryphal examples all day long. I upgraded my wife to Vista / Office 2007 two weeks ago. And I haven’t heard a single complaint or had any problems so far, even with UAC enabled. And we sit directly across from each other when using the computer, so believe me, if she had a problem, I couldn’t avoid knowing about it. I have, on the other hand, heard her complain bitterly about various UI problems with the websites she visits. Should we blame Microsoft for that, too?

    I don’t see why the choice between Apple and PC has to be this grand lifestyle vision.

    But whatever works for you. If it has to be a cultural jihad to be satisfying, then so be it.

  5. greywulf says:

    > I upgraded my wife to Vista / Office 2007 two weeks ago.

    Ah. That’s where Thomas has been going wrong then. He’s been upgrading computers, not people.

    Suddenly, it all makes sense.

  6. Ade says:

    I had the most luck with Windows NT4. Shame it didn’t “do” multimedia that well. XP was always trouble for me.

    My Windows PC now randomly turns itself off every 5 minutes or so, with no warning. I don’t think I can face yet another wipe and reinstall! I’m tired of all that…

    So I’ll just stick to using the Mac.

  7. Ian Graham says:

    As many have said… the Mac JUST WORKS! Imagine a car that gets you from A to B with NO PROBLEMS! M$ is a dirty underhanded company and VISTA is nothing more than a really BAD rip off of Mac OSX Tiger. Leopard is around the corner and from what I have seen is absolutely AMAZING! Sorry, but to me, supporting Windows with all of its problems, security issues, viruses, anti trust law suits, etc. etc. etc. makes no sense when you have an alternative system that works. You may be a mechanic but I LIKE TO DRIVE my car! My audio/video studio is productive and we have no down time. As for Charlie Owen, did he not see the internal emails from Jim Alchin regarding OS X and how he felt they had ALOT of work to make Vista even close to Tiger? Also, has he not seen the reviews of VISTA? Terrible! He’s been brained washed by Micro CRAP!

  8. Rohan says:

    To tell the truth Thomas the windows community will not miss will not and cannot please everyone and you MAC certainly will not either.

  9. Sam says:

    Come on. Macs are slick, but the new Vista’s not that far off. A Mac’s recently entered my house, and while its not worse than Windows, Mac’s got the ‘spinning wheel of death’, I’ve had to Force Quit programs a lot of times (iTunes, Adium, Fire etc.), only a specific subset of hardware works on it, and I still don’t get why sometimes the program doesn’t quit even though I’ve closed all the windows, among other things.

    And why is it so hard to automount a particular network share on logon every time? From what I read, you have to have an AppleScript for that. What?

    I think ultimately, it has a lot to do with the mass usage of Windows, wider range of software (bigger chance of badly designed software as well), and its much wider hardware compatibility that’s holding it down. Apple gets more control over its ecosystem, and as a result they can make the experience better. Microsoft would be able to do the same in the same position.

    I’ve had no problems with my Windows machine for ages, so a lot of it comes down to the users too. Over time, the Mac will probably become easier for me too.

    Just think the comparison should be a bit fairer – Mac’s not the ideal system its often painted to be.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I like many Window users, hoped that Vista was going to become THE imaging platform for photographers…it isn’t.
    The Mac platform is fundamentally friendlier to “creatives”…the core of the OS is designed for photographers, designers, film makers, sound engineers, musicians…on Vista all of this is an afterthought.
    I am tired of using an OS that is a compromise for what I do…after many, many years…and after buying Vista, this is the year that I “have had enough” and I am moving over to OS X as soon as Leopard is released.

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  12. TranceMist says:

    Thomas- nice to see you free yourself on your own.

    Interesting how the only people who defend Microsoft are either Microsoft themselves or geeks who like to tinker with it.

    You never see normal users who are focused on productivity defend Microsoft. Occasionally they just shrug and acknowledge that they’re stuck with it (i.e. Outlook, Notes, etc).